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What is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome? All You Need To Know

The transcript can be found under the video.

You might have heard about the trifecta. POTS, EDS and MCAS.

On this channel, I mostly speak about POTS. But a third of POTS patients are estimated to also have MCAS. Mast cell activation syndrome. So, what is MCAS? What are mast cells? Who does it affect? What are the symptoms? And most importantly, what can be done to reduce these symptoms? That's what I want to talk about in today's video. Are the symptoms just itching and redness? Is just like allergies? What does that have to do with gastrointestinal symptoms?

I really do believe that knowledge is power. So, when you're struggling with many random symptoms and you don't know what's going on it, of course, can seem overwhelming. But once you start making connections and figuring out what's causing what and why mast cells are acting the way they are, you can make better informed choices that then leads you to being a more empowered patient, because after all no one knows your body better than you do.

So, let's get into it.

What are mast cells?

Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that play an important role in how the immune system responds to certain bacteria, parasites and they also control other types of immune responses. They're found in connective tissues all through the body, especially under the skin, near the blood vessels, lymph nodes, nerves, near the eyes, nose, lungs, intestines, really everywhere.

So, they're also kind of called immune system watchdogs. Now I like to think of my body since I'm kind of a visual person, I like to think of my body as big center with minions running across and just running the show.

So, these mast cells, these minions, you could think of them as multi-passionate muscles. They interact with many different cells in their body. They're kind of everywhere, right? They're extroverts, they like to they're here, they're there, they're everywhere. They have various receptors for allergens, neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, pathogens.

Now, they're not bad in and of themselves. They play a role in many bodily processes in the generation of new blood vessels, in the body's ability to repair wounds and also in the immune system's reactions against intruders. So, they're actually very useful they just go haywire and that's when things become problematic.

They contain chemicals such as histamine, heparin, cytokines, growth factors And they release these chemicals when the body perceives an immune threat. Now, the problem arises when there's so many of them that get released or the degree to sensitivity, to which they are released which causes these issues. So, either too many of them or just a high sensitivity and then that causes them to get released. earlier than they should have been.

Who is affected by MCAS?

It affects about estimated to affect about 17 percent of the population. So, that makes it quite relatively common. There could be a genetic or environmental link, because the prevalence amongst relatives having it is a little bit higher. So, that's pretty interesting.

About 70% of those affected are assigned female at birth. Female mast cells also store and release more inflammatory chemicals than male mast cells. Thus, they tend to have more aggressive immune responses, which is wonderful for fighting infections but it also makes women more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases.

And the lifespan of those affected by MCAS tends to be normal, but the quality of life is affected. This can range from a mild impairment in some people to a poor quality of life in some people depending on how much symptoms affect the person. So, there's a pretty large spectrum.

What are the triggers and symptoms?

The difference in the quality of life has to do with how many triggers one has, as well as the severity of the trigger. So, some triggers can include:

  • alcohol, caffeine, certain foods, particularly those that are aged, cured, fermented or smoked, chemicals found in cleaning supplies, sunlight, extreme temperatures, food additives or preservatives.

For me this was always a big, big problem particularly, chemicals in beauty products such as shampoo or nail polish or even makeup, medications or supplements, mold, physical or emotional stress, secondhand smoke, etc., etc.

I think sometimes we tend to look mainly at food and I know a lot of people do elimination diets to try to figure out the triggers, but food is not the only thing necessarily they were exposed to that we're putting in our body.

So, what happens when these triggers are encountered and mast cells are releasing these mediators? It ranges for most people. For some people, there's flushed or redness of the face, neck, or chest.

For me particularly, here was always very very red in here as well. There could be itching either with hives or without hives. It can be also difficult to breathe, your stomach might ache, there could be nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, or various eye or nose symptoms, as well as throat discomfort or headaches. Sometimes might not come on right away after being exposed to the trigger depending exactly on what kind of mediators are released as well. And there are also rare instances of some people having a full-blown anaphylactic response.

How is MCAS diagnosed and treated?

So, how do we diagnose this? Diagnosis tends to be difficult just as there's a lot of potential triggers, there are also something like 200 identified mast cell mediators and everyone is different exactly to what kind of mediator is released at a certain time.

Some also have their own responses down the chain, so that explains a really wide range of symptoms and also kind of why when some people are affected versus some others.

Diagnosis is mainly based on looking at physical symptoms, looking at labs for elevated certain levels of mast cell mediators in the blood and the urine, and also responding positively to the treatments.

There are over-the-counter medications, as well as prescription medications and even supplements like quercetin, vitamin D. But also when it comes to medications or supplements, those with mast cell problems also have to watch out for the heightened sensitivity to various dyes or fillers. So, sometimes one will respond to the same over-the-counter medication.

They might have to try two different brands just because of the various dyes or various other things that might be in it and that could cause a significantly different reaction.

What else can be done?

Now, other than medications and supplements, what else can be done?

Luckily, there's quite a few options. When we zoom out, we realize that mast cells have to do with systemic inflammation. So, something is triggering these to get kind of over-activated. So, what can be done?

Here it's where it's really important to engage in detoxification practices, so kind of clearing out emotional stress, clearing out stresses like viral infections, moving our body to detoxify, looking at what we are putting in our body, what could be triggering us around us, rebalancing the nervous system, looking at other toxins around us, getting proper sleep, which also aids with detoxification.

I think that's something like 10 different videos I could make, so just to talk about a few of the things.

When it comes to diet, for example, it's important to also have to figure out triggers. Getting histamine levels under control can be a great first step. You can find out also more about histamine in one of my other videos that I'll link down below, specifically related to diets. And, so, something like a low histamine diet or a low fodmap diet, can be a great beginning step for figuring out triggers and reducing histamine. The gut is also a pathway to inflammation, so, soothing the gut by providing it with the proper foods is very much needed.

It can also be useful to supplement with natural antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers. There are natural sources of antihistamines, which are found in vitamin C, various probiotics, and honey among many many more.

We talked a little bit about toxins before, so, identifying and removing sources of toxins looking at where you're eating your food from, what's in the air that you're breathing, what products are you using. Even things like emotional toxins. How are you minimizing or reducing that? And then physically getting it out of the body, are you sweating enough? Exercise is also a natural mast cell stabilizer, of course, it has to be done safely.

With regards to fatigue and other symptoms, when it comes to getting out of the body, are you having regular bowel movements? What can be done to help that move along?

Also very important to look at chronic stress. That kicks the immune system into overdrive, and that allows the mast cells to go a lot more haywire to start throwing all kinds of crazy parties that we don't want them to and to release all these mediators at the smallest provocation. And not just kind of emotional stressors, but physical stressors but perfumes or cleaning products are there in the air. Emotional, physical stress. I also have another video on stress that I will also link down below.

It might feel a little bit overwhelming to hear of so many different options, but the good news is that that gives you a lot of different avenues of things that can potentially help.

Everyone's journey is crazy, uniquely different and even from these three suggestions that I have mentioned, I've seen people make pretty big improvements from just implementing one of these past three. Because, again, different things work for different people.

And if you are looking for help in implementing any of these changes without feeling overwhelmed and taking, a kind of, a step-by-step approach, check out my website at and sign up for my newsletter, so that you could hear about future program openings.

I hope you did find this video helpful. I would love to hear your biggest takeaway down in the comments below. Have you been diagnosed with MCAS? And if so, what has helped your symptoms the most?


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